CBS Sunday Morning had a segment about the 747 airplane being retired from commercial use last week. It's not the first story I've seen or read on the subject. The New York Times ran a nice article about the Early Days on the 747 back in October. The segment on CBS Sunday Morning also talked about the early days of this plane and how no one believed it would be able to get off the ground. It talked about different airlines competing to have the most interesting lounge in the upper deck with bars and even a piano on an American Airlines 747. The 747 was the cruise ship of the skies.
Way back when I was little and we took that first trip to Hawaii, we flew on a 747 across the Pacific. The memories of that trip are hazy, particularly the actual travel parts, but I do remember being really excited about flying in a 747. I was wearing my nicest church dress. It was one Mom had made for my sister as a Christmas dress and had a layered ruffled skirt. As would be the case with most of my clothes, the dress became mine after my sister out grew it. Mom replaced my sister's dress with a matching dress of the same style, just a different color. Dress clothes were required attire for flying on the stand-by list because you never knew if that open seat was going to be somewhere in coach or up in first class. This was the late 70s, early 80s. People still dressed nice in first class and people still smoked on airplanes. Airlines started phasing out the lounge part of the 747 in the late 70s in order to make room for more seating, but this particular plane still had it's lounge.
I have fuzzy memories of my sister holding my hand as I followed her down the long isle to the spiral staircase that led up to lounge. The stewardess standing at the bottom of the stairs looked at the wings pinned to our pretty dresses. We always got new wings whenever we flew, even though pins were only meant for first time flights. There was always someone working on the plane who knew Dad, either a pilot, co-pilot or stewardess. Dad knew everyone. There were benefits to that, like wing pins and extra peanut snacks. One time while traveling in first class, my Mom admired the salt and pepper shakers and the stewardess wrapped them up in a napkin and gave them to my Mom. The stewardess on this trip bent down to eye level to talk to us and then pointed up the stairs. She was letting us take a peak. I trailed behind my sister up the spiral stairs and we peaked through the rails. I only remember seeing feet. Shiny loafers. Black dress heels. Fancy cowboy boots. The lounge was dark and filled with cigarette smoke. I remember hearing music and the clink of glass. All of these images where absorbed in seconds before we hurried back down the staircase, giggling, running back to our seats.
Really, I don't remember a single thing about our flight back home from that trip. I only remember the flight over and I don't think I ever again flew on a 747. The plane Mom and I flew on from Chicago to Heathrow was a big plane, but it was not a 747. It's a shame to see it go. It's a shame they got rid of the lounge. I don't miss the cigarette smoke though, but the whole idea of a lounge on an airplane seemed to make travel a decadent treat. Not the hassle it has become with long lines and very little leg room and the feeling of being squashed into a tin can. The 747 is one of those planes that made the traveling to the destination part of the adventure. I wish I could have ridden on one just one more time.